Bike-IN landscapes: Bikepacking NM and the wild US

“Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Unique in the New Mexico 2019 legislative session is House Memorial 10, which recognizes the contributions of bikepacking for outdoor recreation.  Bikepacking is a combination of camping and cycling, akin to backpacking, but gear is mounted on one’s bicycle instead of carried on one’s back! Outside Magazine covers the genesis of this grassroots, community-driven movement in New Mexico, which was born out of residents’ interest of getting to know this place better, and enjoying the abundant natural assets of quiet, dark night skies, and wonderful landscapes.  Bikepacking creates unlimited, sustainable travel opportunities while supporting local communities and small scale enterprises, and keeping nature intact.  It encourages us to slow down and take in the treasures of the places we inhabit, all while improving mental and physical health and well-being.

photos from day rides. With bikepacking those envoys of beauty, the stars, string our days together

Bikepacking speaks to the most important issues of our times.  You don’t need expensive equipment to enjoy it, so it’s affordable and accessible.  Think of the health boom bikepacking creates!  A health boom could expand indefinitely and include all people, residents and visitors, natives and newcomers.  A health boom has no down side. Bikepacking preserves natural habitats and biodiversity, and utilizes the existing network of trails, dirt roads and paved connecting roads from population centers.  Through bikepacking adventure, we learn to take better care and pay attention to all we have, including our subsistence infrastructure.

Bikepacking contributes to health, economy, and communities all in one activity, and seems to honor the essence of things.  It contributes to the upbuildling of human lives and community and the conservation of nature for future generations, while increasing the capacity today for appreciating the life we are living.  Bikepacking is not an extractive activity, rather it is regenerative.  We can also train for it right here in the villages, towns, cities and countryside where we reside.  Cycling has many practical uses, and is beautiful poetry, too.

Bikepacking brings people IN to the landscapes we call home and we see the world with new eyes from a bicycle.  We sharpen our ingenuity and hone our skills.  We learn to sense better when a rain storm is coming, to know when to pitch camp for the evening.  Truths flow out of the recesses of our consciousness in the backcountry, and we realize there is a tranquil sense of unity throughout nature, one that flows in us and through us and that we are a part of.  We meet people while bikepacking and build up the fabric of engaged, supportive community.  Biking in nature helps us appreciate things and know ourselves.

“The charming landscape which I saw this morning is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms.  Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape.  There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.  This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.”  RW Emerson, Nature

 

References and Resources:
House Memorial 10 recognizing the importance of bikepacking in New Mexico
https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/19%20Regular/memorials/house/HM010.pdf

Outside Magazine “New Mexico Wants to Make Bikepacking Mainstream”
https://www.outsideonline.com/2391248/legislators-trying-make-bikepacking-go-big

I’ve written about my cycling day trips.  I would like to try overnight trips by bikepacking.
https://bikeinitiative.org/2016/12/18/cycling-from-home/

A couple Team CSP-SBI New Mexico cycling ambassadors took a wild ride just yesterday
https://www.strava.com/activities/2205526850 “Cabezon loop extended aka luxury gravel”
https://www.strava.com/activities/2205408125 “Exploring that other side”

I could see some write-ups on bikepacking here, in the ‘slow travel’ section
https://www.theworldinstituteofslowness.com “the fastest way to a good life is to slow down”

A Ride

story and photos by Team CSP-SBI’s Michael Ort
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I wake up with an ear worm: “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel”.  No idea where it came from, but it’s there.  By 6:45, I’ve had my tea and some too-sweet granola (the store must have changed its supplier), and am out the door on my cross bike.  No one out on the streets – Sundays are delightful that way.  Up the hill behind Thorpe Park.  Funny that the ride starts with the steepest hill.  Up onto the mesa and beginning to stretch out.  Ten cow elk cross the dirt road in front of me.  I wonder where the pronghorns I used to see around here have gone.  Bouncing along over ruts and rocks – the big trucks doing the forest thinning sure mess up the road.  The heavy equipment used to put in the Snowbowl water line a few years ago must not have been cleaned of noxious seeds before coming in.  The cheatgrass came in at that time and is spreading quickly.  All the forest clearing might be for naught if the cheatgrass carries the fires instead.  Pass through a covey of sleeping campers with vehicles on both sides of the road.  No dogs come out, good!  Bouncing bouncing bouncing, Rejoice rejoice Emmanuel!

We had dinner out with our daughter last night.  She moved out last weekend.  I was surprised how good it was to see her.  I miss her.  The nest is empty.  Legs feeling good – rejoice!  We are going to do the Ride the Rockies next week, and I have not really done any training.  This ride might tell me whether I can do the miles, but it is too late to train.  I was working on Reunion Island for a couple of weeks, where I managed a couple of runs on the track outside my dorm room, but the work was pretty demanding.  Then a day in Dublin to drop off suitcases – why bring them home if we are moving back there in a couple of months? – and then to Oxford to work on a proposal for a couple of days.  It was good to meet my two colleagues – we had only corresponded via email and chatted on skype previously.  But one just could not seem to get her mind around the project and focus on obtaining the results we need from her.  After the meeting, the other colleague told me she wants the first one off the proposal – she doesn’t have the skills to do the work we need.  Colleague number two is right, but these are people, not robots.  I am the lead on this – it falls to me.  I wrote a letter, but is it kind?  Is it clear?  It is sitting on my computer now, waiting for me to decide.  I need advice from someone.  Who?  Guido would be good – I’ll write him.  Bam – oof!  Hit that rock a bit hard.  Rejoice!  Come back to now.

These wheels are pretty strong.  Had them built last summer, set up tubeless, and now can ride fatter tires.  35 rear, 40 up front.  My first long ride on them was this same route, I think.  It was before I did that ride put on by that organization in Phoenix, riding up to the Canyon.  I did not know anybody on the ride, but my daughter ran the scheduling for friends who were giving massages at the finish.  We all camped there that night.  And then I ran into Dara – Troy was off doing something – and so there was someone to chat with.  She had her little gas molecule with her, running around playing.  I was beat from riding a cross bike on a mountain-bike course, but bang!  Didn’t see that rock in the shade.  I really should get some lighter sunglasses so I can see in mottled light.  Legs still feeling good. Dropping down behind Wing Mountain.  Cool, a coyote!  And cows.  Rejoice, rejoice!  I wonder where that song comes from.  Can’t think of any more words to it – could it be from Dad’s temple?  No, I can’t remember singing there.  Mom’s church?  Maybe – they did a lot of singing back then.  It was an ecumenical time.  That seems to have passed – do churches still invite people from other faiths to discuss their belief systems?  I learned a lot from those but I can’t seem to believe in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god any more.  After seeing my daughter in the hospital with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, skin blistering from a reaction to her epilepsy meds, I couldn’t see any god that allowed that as merciful or loving, or else he/she/it wasn’t very powerful.  The forest feels powerful today.  Maybe god is something else.  Cool, arriving at road 222.  Fast and no traffic – haven’t seen a car moving yet.  Where is my shortcut – that one?  No, I’ll recognize it.  Don’t second-guess yourself.  There it is – turn off!  A couple mule deer.  Now road 171 – heading toward Kendrick.  The lava tube is over there.  It is nice the tourists don’t know about the better caves.  Ahh, the first car passes me, respectfully and slowly, keeping the dust down.  Give them a wave.  Oh, two hours in now, time to eat something.  Quiet out here, good time to sit.  Rejoice, Emmanuel, whoever you are!  Along the foot of Kendrick and then south on road 100 through Government Prairie.  Pass the Government Prairie vent – coolest scoria cone around, with benmoreite, rhyolite, and dacite all erupted together.  The students I take here are always amazed and confused by it.  What a wide-open area!

The road goes straight along the range boundary.  Glad we don’t use township and range much anymore.  GPS and UTM sure simplify things!  Through the little housing community – they just graded this road.  Up to 35 mph on the downhill, with a bit of sliding on some turns.  Rejoice!  Left on old route 66, dirt here.  And uphill.  Hmm, my legs are getting tired, and it is hot.  Stop at the top for another bit of food, and refill my bottles from the one-liter platypus in the big seat bag I put on the bike for this ride.  Great invention, but I am still going to be pretty dry by the end.  Twenty miles to go now, forty miles in.  More sunscreen? Nah – too much sweat on me, so the cream won’t stick.  Downhill to that little housing area – I wonder if it has a name?  See my second (and third, fourth, fifth, and sixth) vehicles on the road – old pickups each with one person inside, in single file moving slowly.  Wonder what that is about.  Damn Assos bib shorts.  I bought them because everyone said they are so comfortable.  They always feel noticeable when I wear them, chamois too thick, bib straps push on my shoulders.  I want shorts I don’t notice.  After these shorts failed, I started buying Castelli.  Those fit me, and disappear when I am on the bike.  My nipples hurt – the stupid bib straps are chafing them.  Do I need to put bandaids on them like in a marathon?  Bouncing along probably accentuates the problem.  Pavement!  I wonder how long this stretch is.  Long fast cruise downhill, to turn back onto road 171.  Three miles of pavement to the turn.  Wave and call out greetings to the pack of runners returning from their run and getting into their cars.  Damn, I should have asked them if they had any extra water.  Up the hill – three more cars pass by – and turn onto 222A.  This will be a grunt – my legs are tired.  Forgot how loose and rocky it is too.  A big guy in a huge pickup stops and gets out, heading off into the woods.  He waves, and remotely locks the pickup, which chirps as I pass by.  Finally at the top – Rejoice, Emmanuel.  Who was Emmanuel?  Isn’t that another name for Jesus?  For people who had no surnames, the various forms of god sure had a lot of given names.  Cruising down the road toward A1 Mountain now.  Brake quickly at the rough patches.  Better lighting than earlier this morning, but I am tired and need to be careful.  Stop for my last food and drain one bottle.  Still have half the other to drink.  I’ll make it.  An SUV comes by and stops and asks if I am okay.  I probably look pretty beat.  I should – I am.  I thank them.  Damn!  Should have asked for water.  Or maybe a beer.  Out into A1 meadow.  No animals out now.  Down the hill to Thorpe Park, slowing and ringing my bell for the walkers.  Pavement, up the hill, and home.  Pine pollen covers everything in yellow.  Except me.  I am covered in dust.  And my bike too.  Hose us both off. Rejoice, rejoice!  I’ll lube the chain later.